Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, and PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) are making last-minute preparations for the much-touted direct talks, set to begin at 5 PM Israel time (10 AM in Washington).
With so many weighty issues in the background, the foreground talks themselves are sometimes hard to make out. Looming behind the scenes are the two Palestinian terrorist attacks over the past two nights that claimed four lives and wounded two others, the fast-approaching end of the Jewish construction freeze in Judea and Samaria, and the threats by Abu Mazen to quit the talks if the freeze is not extended.
Netanyahu turned to Abu Mazen on Wednesday night and said, “You are my partner for peace.” He said he came to Washington to achieve “secure, durable peace for all sides,” not to play “a blame game” or “to find excuses.”
However, he emphasized, he would not make any concessions in terms of security. “Peace must provide security,” he said, and the “West Bank,” as he called it, must not become one that is dominated by terrorists, as occurred in Lebanon and Gaza. He said he is confident that peace is possible.
Netanyahu has told the Americans that the freeze will end on Sept. 26 as planned, explaining that settlement construction is actually a final-status issue and should not be dealt with separately.
Danny Dayan, head of the Yesha Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria, has also traveled to Washington. He told Haaretz he is there in order to speak to the media and make the case against a Palestinian state, and to monitor the situation and initiate quick decisions if necessary.
“The Palestinian Authority leadership is fully party to the murder [of four Jews from Beit Haggai on Tuesday night],” Dayan said, “and is not a partner for peace. They continue the incitement, continue to praise vile terrorists. Even the condemnation issued by the Palestinian Authority after the terrorist attack was completely propagandist and did not contain a single word of grief… For the last hundred years, terrorism has been the Palestinians' strategy... Abu Mazen, demonstratively, visited the grave of the female terrorist from the deadly attack on the bus on the coastal road. He named a square in Ramallah after her... The Palestinian youths learn from this what to believe in and how to act, much more than they do from the mere participation of the Palestinian leadership in the direct talks with Israel.”
He said there is no essential difference between Hamas and Fatah: “The different factions play the roles of the good cop and the bad cop. But they all share the same worldview. There are organizations that call for efforts in two stages: first establish a Palestinian state and then eliminate Israel, and there are others that argue that this has to be done in one fell swoop.”